Chichibu distillery
is most famous and popular craft whisky distillery in the world today and it opened Japanese whisky Renaissance age. It started productin in 2008 but there were strong support & legacy of 4 distilleries behind the scenes of its birtha although most of them are no more exist except for Sasanokawa Shuzo.

Ichiro's malt of Chichibu by Venture whisky are supported by Sasaokawa and legacy of Karuizawa, Kawasaki and Toa.

2004 Venture whisky
2008 Chichibu distillery

 Chichibu distillery is most famous and popular craft whisky distillery wiht their brand name Ichiro's malt today. It was founded by Ichiro Akuto and started production in 2008. 

 In the beginning, they were bottling Hanyu casks which they took over and these whisky got several awards in UK. And then thier 1st onw distilled whisky "Chichibu the first" released in 2010 also got award in USA.

 It became very difficult to get thier whisky along with their name was becoming very famous and popular year by year. So that they built 2nd ditillery located 400m away from 1st distillery and called as Chichibu 2nd distillery. It started production in 2018 and total production cpacity became 5 times.

 As we know, many new craft whisky distilleries were founded after his success and Japanese  whisky Reneissance age started.

Chichibu distillery by Venture whisky made Ichiro's malt and opened Japanese craft whisky boom.

Chichibu distilleries story

Ichiro's malt card series made by Chichibu and Hanyu distillery

Card series

 Ichiro's malt is one of the most popular and premium whisky in the world today and some of them are sold at auction. Most famous story is auction of card series in Hongkong. Card series are made from several Hanyu casks and it has 54 variations (13 per each symbol and 2 jokers) whish was released between 2005 and 2014. Completed set price in auction in Hongkong was more than 800,000 EUR in 2019.

Leaf series of Ichiro's malt by Chichibu and Hanyu distillery

Why Ichiro's malt?

 Most of craft Japanese whisky brand name today came from distillery location or distillery's name like Saburomaru, Kanosuke, Okayama, Akashi and etc although English name was popular before 1980s like Cherry, Golden Hourse, Mars and Peak. Indeed Japanese whisky brand name came from name of the living person is only Ichiro's malt.


Ichiro Akuto strated whisky business with whisky bottle made from Hanyu cask and bottled by Sasanokawa Shuzo. In theory, it should be Hanyu or something about it but Hanyu distillery had already terminated and his new distillery was still in planning stage.

So he chose his name for his whisky brand.

Akuto Ichiro and Toa shuzo with Nanyu ji whisky distillery

Ichiro Akuto 1

 Ichiro Akuto is founder of Venture whisky company, Chichibu distillery and Ichiro's malt brand.

His family was owner of Toa shuzo with Hanyu distillery.  Thier whisky was one of the most famous Ji whisky (Local whisky) and his grandfather started pot still distillation in 1980.

He was working in Suntory as sales after university graduation although he wished working in Yamazaki distillery. Toa shuzo got bankrupt in 2000 and new owner decided terminating whisky business and discarding 400 stock casks at Hanyu distillery in 2003. He was looking for someone who preserve Hanyu casks and Sasanokawa Shuzo offered to keep those casks because they think that it is big loss of Japanese whisky industry if discarded.

He advised distillation know-how when Sasanokawa Shuzo restarted whisky distillation at Asaka distillery in 2015 as it gives back they saved his 400 Hanyu casks in 2004.

Ichiro Akuto and Karuizawa distillery and Sasanokawa shuzo

Ichiro Akuto 2

 Ichiro Akuto is founder of Venture whisky company, Chichibu distillery and Ichiro's malt brand

He founded Venture whisky company in 2004 and started to promote Hanyu whisky bottled by Sasanokawa Shuzo. He visited 2,000 bar in Ginza whish is most famous bar area in Tokyo to promote his whisky because he focus on professional who can decide whisky by not brand but taste. However it took 2 years to sell 1st 600 bottles.

In parallel, he took whisky making training including disitllation in Karuizawa distillery for 2 months in 2006. It was exact final distillation of Karuizawa distillery because it ended commerical distillation in 2000 and was decided in 2010 to be closed completely in 2011.

Karuizawa distillery was lost forever but it It certainly passed the baton to the next generation by its last distillation.

Ichiro Akuto, Chichibu distillery and Kawasaki single grain whisky

Ichiro Akuto 3

 Ichiro Akuto is founder of Venture whisky company, Chichibu distillery and Ichiro's malt brand

He built Chichibu distillery in 2007 and it started production in 2008. However whisky needs min 3 years cask aging but they had Hanyu casks. So in their early days, they were bottling these casks and relasing to market as leaf series, card series and etc. These whiskys got awards mainly in UK. Forgotten Kawasaki casks were also founded in 2009 and bottled and released as "Single grain whisky Kawasaki" by Chichibu distillery. Kawasaki distillery was lost sister distillery of Karuizawa distillery and it was producing grain whisky by coffey column still as same as Nikka. It was 22 years after their closing in 1987.

So lost distileries cask supported earlydays of new distillery.

Their 1st own distilled whisky "Chichibu the first" was released in 2010 and also got awanrd in 2011.

Ichiro Akuto and Chichibu distillery got cooperage for Mizunara cask

Ichiro Akuto 4

 Ichiro Akuto is founder of Venture whisky company, Chichibu distillery and Ichiro's malt brand

Chichibu distillery is expnading their capability for their ideal whisky. They opened their own Cooperage (Cask factory) especially for Mizunara cask and started thier own floor malting process for local barley malt.

Name of Chichibu dis and Ichiro's malt became famous and popular day by day. In prarallel, it was becoming difficult to get thier whisky. Some of their whisky are sold in auction. So that he decided to build 2nd distillery just 400m far from 1st distillery and it started prodcution in 2019. They chose much bigger pot still than 1st distilery so that their production capacity became 5 times. 

Bottle by Chichibu

Chichibu distillery new born

New born

Chichibu distillery Single malt


Chichibu distillery Ichiro's malt Leaf series double distillery, mizunara wood reserve  and wine wood reserve.

Leaf series DD/MWR/WWR

Chichibu distillery Ichiro's malt leaf series malt and grain type

Leaf series Malt&Grain type

Chichibu distillery whisky

1765 Sasanokawa shuzo

2016 Asaka distillery

 Sasanokawa Shuzo started whisky business in 1946. It was one of the fastest challenger after WW2. They started their own distillation later and their whisky was one of the most famous Ji whisky (Local whisky) with the name of cherry whisky in 1980s although distillation facility and distillation period are unknown. During ice age, they stopped own distillation and continued only bottling old stock cask and import bulk.

 They restarted whisky distillation by their new Asaka distillery in 2016. Ichiro Akuto supported distillation know-how as it gives back they saved his 400 Hanyu casks in 2004.

 They have very rich variety cask stock and releasing very unique cask strength, single cask, and cask finish although most of them are import bulk one.

Asaka distillery by Sasanokawa shuzo for craft Japanese whisky

Story of Sasanokawa/Asaka distillery

Hanyu caks was protected by Sasanokawa shuzo in the end of Hanyu distillery

Hanyu cask in Sasanokawa shuzo

Ichiro Akuto was looking for someone protecting 400 Hanyu stock casks whisky distilled by his gradfather when Hanyu distillery was closed. Because Toa Shuzo who had Hanyu distillery got bankrupt in 2000 and new owner ordered to discard all whisky stock.

Sasanokawa Shuzo offered to keep these and the president Mr. Tetsuzo Yamaguchi said “It is loss of Japanese whisky industry if these casks are discarded”.
Ichiro’s malt 1st lot bottles were bottled in Sasanokawa Shuzo. Sales of Ichiro's malt bottle made from Hanyu cask supported Chichibu distillery in their early days.

Without his decision, Ichiro’s malt and Chichibu distillery had not been established and Japanese whisky history might be totally different.

Ichiro Akuto supported whisky distillation technology when Asaka distillery was founded.

Bottle by Asaka

New pot of Asaka disiillery of Sasanokawa shuzo

New pot / New Born

Yamazakura single malt by Asaka distillery of Sasanokawa shuzo

Asaka The First

Yamazakura and 963 pure malt whisky series by Sasanokawa shuzo

Yamazakura pure malt series
963 pure malt series

Yamazakura and 963 blended whisky series by Sasanokawa shuzo

Yamazakura blended series
963 blended series
963 Black/Red

Japanese craft whisky distillery

1625 Toa Shuzo
1980-2000 Hanyu distillery

 Toa Shuzo was established in 1625 by Akuto failiy. Toa Shuzo started whisky business by bottled imported bulk whiskey and thier "Golden horse" brand was one of the major Ji whisky (Local whisky) in 1970s-1980s. They started distillation in 1980 by gland father of Ichiro Akuto.

But Toa Shuzo went bankrupt in 2000 and new owner came instead of Akuto faimliy. New owner decided to withdraw from whisky business and discard all stock cask whisky. These casks were kept by Sasanokawa Shuzo for Ichiro Akuto and became precious seeds of Ichiro's malt success story.

On the other hands, Toa Shuzo restarted whisky business with Golden horse brand however these bottles are made from 100% import bulk whisky.